Just say NO to democracy!

February 17, 2011 Comments Off on Just say NO to democracy!

It’s pretty crazy in downtown Madison these days. Thousands and thousands of people are gathered in and around the Capitol, protesting Governor Jerkface Walker’s proposed bill to cut state workers’ salaries and place nearly insurmountable bureaucratic obstacles in front of unions. Simon and I were up there last evening, and there were speeches and a drum circle and lots and lots of people, angry but also happy to be in a big group of like-minded people, and there were some great signs. It was like a big party.

It wasn't quite this busy when we were there. Isn't this a great picture?

I don’t agree with the union-busting aspects of the bill, and I might not agree with the pay cuts, either, but in the end I just don’t know enough about anything to have a strong opinion on this. It’s not that I necessarily think the protesters are wrong, but I’m bothered by the fact that there are protests at all. This is why the government makes me nervous. It puts me in mind of some massively important automated system in a sci-fi movie, and an hour and a half into the movie one character screams at another, “Why didn’t they give it an off switch?” And, of course, the answer is that the makers were so confident that it would work flawlessly forever that they didn’t build one in. It bothers me that when democracy starts to go bad, all you can do is protest. There is no manual override. In a country this big, the idea that so very very many people are in charge of deciding what is best in my state, in my city—even in my apartment and in my body—scares me. It’s too large a body, there are too many people, too many opinions, too many points of view for this ever to work the way it was supposed to. And so, in the end, I am unconvinced by democracy. Benign dictatorship would be so much easier! But then again, civics never was my strong suit. Maybe this is the least of many evils. I hope so. I’m certainly not in a position to push for any other kind of government. But I think it’s ironic that, after that post a few weeks ago about assuming democracy is always what’s best for another country, I find myself thinking that democracy in Egypt is fine, and we need something else here at home. It’s gotta be bad when an intelligent, tolerant, middle-of-the-roader such as myself finds herself feeling unrepresented by anyone. Why does the opinion of an idiot creationist carry more weight (with anybody) than the opinion of a smart, experienced statesperson? The bottom line is, I don’t have any confidence at all in democracy; I keep accidentally switching perspectives on it, and from any angle it’s dispiriting. On the one hand, the people are obviously stupid and closed-minded and I don’t want them in charge of me, but there’s nothing you can do about it. On the other, when the people are right and it’s those in power making the bad decisions, there’s nothing you can do about that, either. I can’t decide which impression is stronger, or which is worse. And when it comes right down to it, I don’t believe that my vote or my voice or my presence at the Capitol can possibly make any difference at all to anyone. For now, maybe it’s good to be where I am; people can try to pull the “if not you, who?” line on me, but in Madison, the answer is always “those two hundred people over there.” Maybe it’s craven of me, but at least I can take the time to figure out what I think of all this without feeling like a cause I might possibly support is being shorted by my absence.

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